Edwyn Collins is a musician best known around the world for his huge hit single A Girl Like You, in the mid-nineties; he had also been in a band in the eighties called Orange Juice whose biggest song was Rip It Up. Though he had enjoyed his share of success, he was more or less a cult artiste with a small but loyal following, but he did very well on those terms. Then tragedy struck: in 2005, he suffered two massive strokes, and was landed in a coma from which prospects looked bleak of him ever recovering, and even if he did he would be impaired, but as he lay in his hospital bed, his partner Grace Maxwell would speak to him, encouraging him to recover. Somehow, slowly but surely, he returned to the land of the living...
Don't go in to The Possibilities Are Endless expecting a medical documentary, it was far closer to a poetic work which took impressions of Collins' life and gradual managing to cope with his illness and coupled it with shots of the countryside and seascape around his Scottish home, the place where he felt most at peace having had fond memories of his childhood spent there. The photography drew you in to a curiously meditative state as we considered what the stroke had inflicted on Collins and what he considered made life worth continuing with, which spurred him on not simply to exist as a conscious being, but also a creative one who could express himself with his music.
One of the strange aspects of his affliction was that while he had trouble speaking and holding a conversation, or at least stringing his words together when they seemed unable to break out of his mind, he was able to sing fairly well, almost as well as he could before. But the mysteries of what a stroke can do to the brain are not precisely understood, and why it can affect some elements of your memory and personality while leaving others intact was not delved into here, merely presented as one element of its subject's condition, one he would have to live with for the rest of his days. We see he has some difficulty walking (he uses a cane) but as the film closes that he is mobile, which is more than he was in '05.
The speech was rather more awkward, however, as while it was clear directors James Hall and Edward Lovelace had used his most coherent observations as part of the narration on the soundtrack, there were times when they showed Collins struggling to make himself understood, getting into a frustrating cycle of words and phrases that he could not, try as he might, join up into understandable speech. Another clear thing was that he was lucky to be alive, and though the stroke had altered his personality, enough of the old Edwyn was there, forcing his way through his fog of confusion, to make us thankful he was not doomed to live out his remaining years as a vegetable, for which death may well have been a blessing, unpalatable as that may seem.
The directors assembled a collection of clips from Collins' career as documented on television, so this started with him bright as a button promoting his biggest hit on a U.S. chat show, and interspersed later were bits and pieces of concert footage, Top of the Pops appearances, and past interview footage to offer us an idea of what he was like before. They visited his West Heath Studios (site of his self-starring, incredibly obscure sitcom West Heath Yard, which was a good gauge of his sense of humour) where he tried to bring to mind what it was he had done there to create his music, but the most restful scenes were those on the Scottish coast where he made his home. But this was not exclusively about Edwyn: always by his side, loyal to a fault, was Grace, an inspirational figure and one to aspire to have in your life should a serious illness befall you. This was testament to her tenacious attitude to keeping him alive, and the most moving scenes were where she demonstrated her unwavering support, no matter how life had been treating them, in a documentary that was not information heavy, but was strong on mood.